The Chinese Communist Party has become an expert in profiting off its human rights abuses, according to a former State Department official, who pointed to the regime commercializing slave labor—and even body parts from slain prisoners of conscience.
Robert Destro, a former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said that the Chinese leaders would go after anything that could present a challenge to their rule.
“They are extraction experts,” Destro told an Oct. 18 panel at the Hudson Institute.
“They will monetize everything, from the national resources to your liver,” he added.
Extractive, coercive, repressive, and intrusive—these are the four words Destro chose in describing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Religion has been particularly hard hit, Destro said, pointing to the regime’s about-face on spiritual group Falun Gong as one example.
Introduced in 1992 to northeastern Chinese city Changchun, Falun Gong enjoyed considerable state support in the early years as it spread rapidly by word of mouth. By official estimates, the practice had garnered more than 70 million adherents by the end of the decade. Chinese state media praised the practice for its health benefits, and a State Sports Commission official noted the billions of medical savings it brought to the state.
Alarmed by the group’s vast following, the regime withdrew all such support in July 1999, launching a national campaign in an effort to eliminate it.
“And to this day, the Falun Gong is perceived as an existential threat,” Destro said.
The adherents have been identified by experts as the primary victim group in Beijing’s industrialized forced organ harvesting campaign. Organs from imprisoned practitioners are extracted, and sold, often for tens of thousands of dollars—in a macabre medical process leaving no survivors.
“[The] Chinese government have utilized the police system, judicial systems, the medical system, working together to enable this chain of profits,” said Sean Lin, communication director for Falun Dafa Association in Washington. “If they identify a match they can go to your house to arrest you in any name and harvest your organs.”
The grisly practice of “selling the organs of its own people” makes the Chinese regime no different from “an organized criminal enterprise,” according to Destro.
The former official, who also previously served as a special coordinator for Tibetan issues, observed the same kind of exploitative policies being carried out on the Tibetan plateau and elsewhere in the country.
Tibet, he said, has been a “key proving ground” where the regime has carried out its repression with impunity. It’s done this by extracting the region’s minerals, forcing locals to culturally assimilate to the practices of the Han Chinese majority, driving Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama into exile, and transforming the region into a “pervasive surveillance state.”
The region is “incredibly geostrategic and environmentally important,” being both the gateway for advancing its Belt and Road (BRI) infrastructure project and a key water resource for China’s Asian neighbors. Known as the “roof of the world,” the plateau’s lofty height also adds to its strategic value in the regime’s bid to project military power globally.
“If you have your missiles up on the top of the plateau, you can hit anything,” he said.
Similar scenes are also unfolding in Xinjiang, the far-western region where an estimated 1 million Uyghurs are corralled in a network of internment camps in what the authorities have billed as part of a counter-terrorism campaign.
The regime has also shown “absolutely no mercy,” said Nury Turkel, an Uyghur American lawyer and the vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“To the Chinese Communist Party, any organized religion, any practice of religion or belief, is perceived as a threat,” he said. “They’re perceived as a threat for the survival of the CCP.”
The Xinjiang region provides 85 percent of China’s cotton and about one-fifth of the world’s cotton supply, a major share of which is likely to be tainted with forced labor, according to the think tank Center for Global Policy.
Uyghur women in the Xinjiang camps have seen their treasured hair—grown long according to their tradition—shaved off. Some of this hair then became material for weaves and other beauty products later sold in the United States, survivors interviewed by The Epoch Times said.
In jails across China, toys, artificial flowers, cosmetics, and clothes are but some of the goods prisoners of conscience are forced to make for long grueling long hours each day, often with little to no pay, Falun Gong practitioners who escaped to the United States previously told The Epoch Times.
And the implications of the regime’s human rights abuses will not stop at the Chinese borders, the experts said.
With China playing a major role in global supply chains, the regime has not hesitated to wield its economic power to hit back at Western criticism and bend American corporations to its will.
Earlier in the year, Beijing led on a boycott against major international apparel brands that had sought to avoid using Xinjiang cotton in their products, causing a dozen fashion brands to lose their Chinese brand ambassadors.
Nina Shea, a religious freedom expert at the Hudson Institute who moderated the panel, noted that when the Trump administration imposed tariffs on Chinese goods, U.S.-based Bible publishers that print tens of millions of Bibles in China sided with Beijing in lobbying Washington against the measure.
“It’s an alternative model of life and existence that the Chinese self-consciously are competing with against the liberal democratic model,” said Shea.
The plight of the Chinese religious communities, she and Destro said, deserves closer attention from America.
“These are being pioneered on these communities,” she said. “It’s coming to a place near you if we are not alerted to it.”